Education
 India
Project #11908

School to School - Connect Urban & Rural Children

by GOONJ
Vetted
Children happy to play with toys...
Children happy to play with toys...

Many people and organizations are working in the education sector and bringing about some amazing impact, yet some gaps remain…This story is about one such gap and our experiments with material around this challenge. 

Playing with paper boats in water puddles is a favorite sport of children.. but when the same water engulfs the homes and lives which provide them a familiar comfort, does their precious innocence get lost somehow in all the disaster relief work? This story is about how material added a soothing touch to children traumatized by a devastating disaster.

The Bihar floods way back in 2008 weren’t floods actually.. Flooding means the river water overflows into the land areas and then recedes after some time.. In Bihar the Kosi river actually changed its course and started flowing on a different path, drowning many areas which had never seen a flood before. The water in Supaul, Araria, Saharsa, Madhepura, Khagaria, Bhagalpur and Purnea districts did not retreat for months resulting in widespread hunger and disease. The worst affected were children, who usually go silent at such times, unable to express their trauma. For them the relief needs to go beyond just food and shelter, it needs to connect them back to their childhood innocence. After extensive relief work we couldn’t help noticing the blank eyes and expressions of children in many villages we visited. This became the genesis of Chehak Centers, started solely to nurture the innocence of children in tough times. 

‘Chehak’ in Hindi means the chirping of the young ones. The first Goonj Chehak centre started near a railway line where some kids gathered. We wanted to create a stress and trauma free space for the flood hit children and to introduce learning and basic behavioral aspects to children who had never been to a school before. It was also timely for the parents who were busy rebuilding their lives and homes. 

We opened 16 Chehak centers across Bihar. We first planned to run these centers for 2 months, until the water receded but instead ran them for more than 2 years. The centres were filled with toys and other recreational material while in the initial months we hired and paid for local teachers and provided all the material for the children. 

This story though is not about the brick and mortar centers that we created, it is about the lives of the children who came there and the people who made it happen…

14 years old Kiran from Badhgaon, Saharsa (Bihar) would probably be tagged as a problem child in a city school.. She was frequently found in everyday fights, using foul language.. generally a terror and a headache for her parents, neighbors and peers. When the GOONJ team motivated Kiran to join a Chehak centre, initially everyone at the center had problems with her behavior. Over the course of time we noticed a marked improvement and changes in her behavior. Kiran eventually turned out to be one of the most sincere and bright students at the center; well behaved, disciplined and a role model to many. With pride her mother would share about the changes in Kiran’s personality and her focus on studies. From a nuisance to a role model Kiran’s journey has been an inspiration and learning for all of us. 

Like most things we do, the Chehak Centers also emerged as a result of active participation and ownership of the local communities. Not only did people pro actively work for making these centres, they also contributed by giving land, soil, bamboo to doing shramdaan (voluntary labor). Many abandoned structures were turned into Chehak centres under Goonj’s Cloth for Work (CFW) initiative. After heavy rains, people came forward to repair the Chehak centres even before repairing or rebuilding their own homes. The people of Govindpur Goriyari village especially made a bamboo bridge under CFW to make a Chehak centre accessible to children on the other side of the river. 


There are two Chehak Centres (Saharsa district) currently operational with over 200 children. Now the parents give Rs. 30-40 monthly, taking the complete ownership of the center. The centers now act as informal tuition centers, complementing the formal government school education for these children. Goonj continues to support them in terms of material.

Chehak centers were started with a specific gap in mind and we used material as a tool to address that gap. Started as an experiment in the Bihar floods, the concept is evolving as we recently organized free coaching centres for the flood affected children in Srinagar, (J&K). The needs and modalities are different but the goal is the same. More about that in another story... 

Chehak Centre!
Chehak Centre!
Children learning to write..
Children learning to write..
Children involved in an activity..
Children involved in an activity..
Children in an activity..
Children in an activity..
Engaging in activities..
Engaging in activities..

Links:

Children jumping with excitement wearing new shoes
Children jumping with excitement wearing new shoes

100 Stories of Change

It’s been a journey of 16 years.. started with touching upon the most ignored rather non issue of clothing to use the old material as a currency for development. Many people still think that Goonj is about collection and distribution of clothes .. but how your old material has come up as a new resource for village development across the country, how the old material has been able to lay pipelines in the country for channelizing tonnes of need based material to how it has become a genesis of a parallel economy which is not Cash based but Trash based !! 

From creating large mangroves to bridges in remote India, the old material and Goonj has a lot to share through 100 Stories of Change!! Thank you all for becoming a part of this journey and showing so much of love and faith..

Happy feet and the daily puddles of life !!

"Like cloth, shoe is a basic we hardly ever think about…you don’t have to walk barefoot to know that no one likes it… So if you see a child walking around without shoes, its not a choice, simply a compulsion, an inability to provide for this basic.. that creates an unmistakable chasm for many in village India. "

A row of shoes outside a village classroom.. is an enduring image of hope and learning.. and when you see broken slippers, broken shoes strewn all around.. That’s another enduring image of what’s missing…This story is about how shoes have helped many a happy feet jump across the little puddles of everyday life..

Over the last decade Goonj has consistently talked about shoes as an important need in village India.. It’s an apt metaphor of a needle in the times of machines.. The little needs in times of big challenges.. While we have been channelizing shoes from the cities to the villages, for people like me and you, it’s also a learning in mindful giving…the tying together of laces of a pair to ensure they remain useful.. Ensuring there are laces and sole etc… Basically giving wearable, usable shoes.. with dignity.

Each child’s story is unique but what’s common is the excitement of showing their new shoes to the parents when they get back home. Both feel encouraged and relieved (from an expense) by this little addition in their lives.… Our faith is further affirmed by the addition in attendance at school afterwards. An after effect is the disparity of haves and have not’s, taken away in one stroke.

Tens of thousands of shoes have reached out as part of our disaster relief work over the years. The outcome is millions of smiles, joy and happy feet …

Shoes neatly arranged outside a classroom..
Shoes neatly arranged outside a classroom..
Huddled together wearing smart shoes!
Huddled together wearing smart shoes!
Enthusiastically marching away..
Enthusiastically marching away..
An old lady trying on the smart shoes!
An old lady trying on the smart shoes!
Trying on Sports Shoes for tough terrain!
Trying on Sports Shoes for tough terrain!

Links:

Girl children with the school kits
Girl children with the school kits

Under the School to School (S2S) initiative of Goonj.. one of the main activities undertaken is channelizing of School Kits to children in different parts of the country. A School Kit comprises of a school bag, seating mat, bottle cover, vegetable bag, pencil pouch, belt, towel, skipping rope, cap and scarf. The entire kit is made out of waste material.

Initially the schools that are selected are those with limited infrastructure and facilities for the students. Here children come from families of weaker economic background and communities living in abject poverty. These students can’t afford educational resources necessary for a good education and their regular attendance in schools considerably drop as a result. They lack even the basics like school bag or stationary. Wearing most shabby clothes, with bare minimum books and stationary, instead of a school bag many carry a polythene bag. As a result a feeling of inferiority is predominant among these kids. Their interest in attending school is minimal due to scarcity of these small but important resources.

Goonj’s School Kits work like a motivation for these children, to continue schooling in a meaningful way. Receiving these ‘gifts’, gives them an occasion to be happy and a reason to look forward to another day at school. The Kit supports the families of these children, surviving on meager resources, which they can now direct to an urgent basic need like food or healthcare.

These Kits are distributed as a reward for positive behavioral changes like personal cleanliness, better attendance in school, hard work in class, activities like cleanliness drive, watering the plants and trees etc. These kinds of activities are conducted by the schools at regular intervals to ensure that kids imbibe these aspects in the long term.

School Kits have been a successful experiment as they work as a major motivator for kids to come to school. Using School Kits as a tool, Goonj has reached out to more than 14,500 children in different parts of the country in the year 2014-15 and aims to reach out to many more thousands of school kids with the purpose of not only helping them complete their education but also help in inculcating good habits and behavioral change.

Children playing with the ball in the school kit
Children playing with the ball in the school kit
Boys with their caps & balls - Ready to Play!
Boys with their caps & balls - Ready to Play!
Looking smart in caps!
Looking smart in caps!
Girl children excited about the skipping ropes!
Girl children excited about the skipping ropes!
Girl children skipping to their heart
Girl children skipping to their heart's content!

Links:

Children delighted to have received the school kit
Children delighted to have received the school kit

Wondering in this age of glitzy products what sort of waste could lead to happiness for someone.The fact is that realities are very different in rural India. When Goonj School Recycled kits made out of a colorful array of waste cloth shreds reach children in small far flung schools, the joy it brings is incomparable. In the midst of their daily challenges, the way their faces light up with smiles when they get these kits is a joy to witness. Most of the 1999 children who received these kits recently are school drop outs; working as child laborers or rescued from child labor; from fishery & farming families, who struggle hard to make their ends meet. Working closely with a local organisation Kajla Janakalyan Samiti in East Medinipur district of West Bengal, Goonj tries to fill up critical gaps in education in the school run by this organisation. Goonj has also implemented many other initiatives here, to look after people’s vital needs. Some glimpses of School kits distribution;

Children involved in an activity!
Children involved in an activity!
Girl child with her school kit..
Girl child with her school kit..
Jumping with joy & excitement...
Jumping with joy & excitement...
Girl child receiving the school kit..
Girl child receiving the school kit..
Taking down details...
Taking down details...

Links:

Kids excitedly sifting through their new gifts
Kids excitedly sifting through their new gifts

Sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming to hear about big challenges like climate change, poverty and lack of education. One wonders, is there anything one can do to make a difference?

How about one School kit at a time; we move towards a change! Goonj believes in filling these small gaps to facilitate the big changes.  The School to School initiative pays attention to a child’s unattended need for school material. A ‘Goonj School Kit’ is created completely out of recycled material and comprise of some essential school supplies like school bag, water bottle cover, sitting mat, stationary pouch, and also includes things like a ball and a skipping rope to take care of children’s inherent need to play, helping in their mental & physical growth.

Recently Goonj has reached a chunk of these kits i.e. 584 kits to children belonging to 35 micro-communities via our implementation partner Kajla Janakalyan Samiti  in East Medinipur district of West Bengal. The children shortlisted were those having limited or no educational resources as they belong to economically-weak families & minority groups. The glimpses of the activity are here

Happy faces of Netaji Children Club at Dariapur
Happy faces of Netaji Children Club at Dariapur
Distribution of material
Distribution of material
Parents are happy as their children receiving kits
Parents are happy as their children receiving kits

Links:

 

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Organization Information

GOONJ

Location: New Delhi, Delhi - India
Website: http:/​/​www.goonj.org
Project Leader:
Priyanka Tiwari
New Delhi, Delhi India
$13,768 raised of $95,000 goal
 
 
336 donations
$81,232 to go
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